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82 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Real history in the making
Many books have been penned about Ancient Rome. Some are well written and know what the're talking about - whilst others are long-winded and can bore you to tears in thirty seconds. Well, how about slicing through all that - and reading the words of a man who was actually there?
Pliny (the Younger) was a Roman nobleman born around 61AD. He served as a magistrate...
Published on 21 Mar. 2001

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
One of the corners was a little bumped, probably in the post. Otherwise very satisfactory.
Published 12 days ago by David Evans


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82 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Real history in the making, 21 Mar. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Letters of Pliny the Younger (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Many books have been penned about Ancient Rome. Some are well written and know what the're talking about - whilst others are long-winded and can bore you to tears in thirty seconds. Well, how about slicing through all that - and reading the words of a man who was actually there?
Pliny (the Younger) was a Roman nobleman born around 61AD. He served as a magistrate under the emperor Trajan, and was the nephew of Pliny (the Elder) the famous statesman and writer. It's refreshing to read the words of an actual Roman for a change instead of those of ancient or modern historians, and Pliny's letters cover many fascinating aspects of roman life. Also gratifying is that often we are also given the replies.
Among the topics covered are; family, villas, court cases, hobbies, and poetry (his own verses, it must be said, stink!). How refreshing to get inside a Roman nobleman's head, and share his thoughts (even though his letters were written perhaps with "one eye" on their eventual publication).
The most famous letter is addressed to his friend the roman historian Tacitus who has asked for an account of his uncle's death in the eruption of Vesuvius. This of course took place in 79AD and caused the destruction of both Pompeii and other towns in the Bay of Naples).
The translator Betty Radice has done a very good job rendering the letters into modern english and her twenty-two page introduction makes interesting reading. Brief appendices include a short glossary and three maps. If "real" roman history is your thing - you can't beat this collection!
Here are just a few excerpts:-
To: Valerius Paulinus "I am furious with you, rightly or not I don't know, but it makes no difference. You know very well that love is sometimes unfair, often violent, and always quick to take offence, but I have good reason, whether or not it is a just one, to be as furious as I would be in a just cause. It is so long since I had a letter from you. The only way to placate me is to write me a lot of letters now, at long last - lengthy ones, too."
To: Sempronius Rufus "I had gone down to the Basilica Julia to listen to the speeches in a case where I had to appear for the defence at the next hearing. The court was seated, the presiding magistrates had arrived and counsel on both sides were coming and going; then there was a long silence, broken at last by a message from the Praetor. The court adjourned and the case was suspended, much to my delight for I am never so well prepared as not to be glad of a delay"
To: Cornelius Tacitus "I should like to obey your orders,but when you tell me I ought to honour Diana along with Minerva I find it impossible - there is such a shortage of boars. So I can only serve Minerva, and even her in the lazy way to be expected during a summer holiday.
On my way here I made up some bits of nonesense (not worth keeping) in the conversational style one uses when travelling, and I added something to them once I was here and had nothing better to do; but peace reigns over the poems which you fancy are only too easy to finish in the woods and groves. I have revised one or two short speeches, though this is the sort of disagreeable task I detest and is more like one of the hardships of country life than it's pleasures."
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating self-portrait, 19 Oct. 2010
By 
Jeremy Walton (Sidmouth, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Letters of Pliny the Younger (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
I picked this collection of letters up to read on a trip to Rome a few years ago, and found it provided an interesting historical background to the experience of the city. I remembered its eye-witness account of the eruption of Vesuvius just before we visited that part of Italy at the beginning of the month, and brought it along to re-read. Although the two letters describing the destruction of Pompeii and the subsequent death of his uncle, the famous natural scientist and military commander Pliny the Elder are probably the best-known (they're used almost verbatim in, for example, Robert Harris's Pompeii), there are many rewards to be obtained in reading all of the letters. They give a well-rounded insight into a fascinating person - one with a successful career as a lawyer and magistrate in the early Roman Empire, who read widely in Greek and Latin and who published his own speeches and verse (although the latter, if the few examples he quotes are representative, would be - in the words of the present editor - "embarassingly banal" (p26)).

His letters are written to friends, family, colleagues and - in the last section of the book - to the emperor Trajan, as part of his final assignment as special commissioner for the province of Bithynia. These letters are more business-like, as he seeks Trajan's advice on financial and administrative problems (including a famous question about what to do about Christians, described as members of a "degenerate sort of cult carried to extravagant lengths" (p294)), and the emperor responds pithily and shrewdly to his devoted servant (replies to letters in the other sections have not been preserved). An sample (p299) illustrates Trajan's tone nicely:

"It is impossible for me to lay down a general rule whether everyone who is elected to his local senate in every town of Bithynia should pay a fee on entrance or not. I think then that the safest course, as always, is to keep to the local rules of each city, though as regards fees from senators appointed by invitation, I imagine they will see that they are not left behind the rest."

The other letters range over a variety of topics, as he describes life at his country villas and their gardens, recommends young men for imperial posts, pays tribute to notable figures and reports gossip from the courts. He comes across as a conscientious worker, a loyal friend and a generous public benefactor, and the picture he paints of a professional man who takes his responsibilities seriously, who can't afford to sqaunder his capital or neglect his obligations, and who believes in things like right procedure and effective administration counters the impression that many of us have of the decadence and dissolution of the Roman Empire. Even so, there's the occasional glimpse of the flaws in his character - sometimes he appears a bit too pompous or self-satisfied, and it's not entirely clear if he's really joking when he writes something like this (p237):

"If I begin praising you after your praise of me, I fear I shall look as though I am only showing gratitude instead of giving a true opinion. All the same, I do think all your written works are very fine, but especially those which deal with me. For this there is one and the same reason - you are at your best in writing about your friends, and I find it your best when it is about myself."
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Letters from imperial Rome, 1 Aug. 2010
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Letters of Pliny the Younger (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Writing in the second century CE (AD), Pliny's correspondence includes letters to Tacitus, Suetonius and the emperor Trajan. Both lively and personal, perhaps self-consciously modelled on Cicero's letters, these give us an intimate glimpse into Rome at this period.

There are times when Pliny, like Cicero, can be unbearably pompous and moral but he can equally be quite gossipy with his recounting of scandalous stories. His letters to Tacitus about the eruption of Vesuvius and the death of his uncle, Pliny the Elder, are probably well-known to anyone who has ever studied Latin (and they still remain tutors' favourites for unseens...) but there are other delights in this collection.

Without ever having the political resonance of Cicero's letters, these are less `public' but no less fascinating.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read., 25 May 2011
This review is from: The Letters of Pliny the Younger (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Pliny is short and sweet and to the point.
The letters are concise and easy to read.

They give great insight into daily life in Rome in the First Centuary AD and cover many topics:
writing, work, slavery, women and religion to name a few.
He also wrote frequently to Emperor Trajan.
His letters give a primary source of information on society and his personal beliefs and views as a Roman Citizen at the time.
His letters are a delight to read - especially his letters to his wife Calpurnia as they are so sweet!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous, 9 Nov. 2010
This review is from: The Letters of Pliny the Younger (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Reading these letters gives you an invaluable insight into the mind of a rich and powerful Roman and a snapshot of the socio-political climate in which he lived...so very different to our own. Bearing in mind he wrote these letters with the intent of having them published, makes reading them all the more interesting when we compare the values expressed with our own....
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Generous To A Fault, 23 Oct. 2010
This review is from: The Letters of Pliny the Younger (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Pliny had a successful career in Roman politics and at the law courts and was well-known and well-connected enough to be close to the leading personalities of the day (first century A.D.) The letters cover about everything from legal cases to love, literature, career, personal finances, friendship, career and plain old gossip. There are 10 books roughly chronological (no dates are given) and no discernible pattern in subject matter except Book Ten devoted to his correspondence with the Emperor Trajan. The letters were published in Pliny's lifetime and since he was in the habit of sending drafts of his work to friends for review and comments I had the feeling that these letters were heavily doctored unlike say Cicero's (some of his were doctored too in case they fell into the wrong hands) whose letters were mainly meant for private reading.

Pliny's letters are an invaluable source of Roman history and they are also strewn with many pearls of wisdom. The most striking thing for me about Pliny is the man's generosity. He sounds so genuinely pleased and ecstatic if someone good or talented succeeds. He's keen to promote talented young men and recommend them for office. He would remonstrate with his friends if they did not send him letters because he wanted so much to hear from them. He took cases which at times put his life in danger because he felt the justness of the plaintiffs complaints. In one letter he takes issue with a father who was too hard on his son reminding the older man that he too used to be a boy and made mistakes.

This sort of open-handed pleasure in the well-being of others is not something I come across often in my own life. Most people including myself are more concerned about shining brightly against the dim shadows of others. Reading Pliny made me realise that praising and cheering someone else's accomplishments and talent need not diminish my own stature. In his words, envy is a sign of inferiority and when I think about it I think it's an apt observation. Pliny's generosity extended to gifts to people in financial difficulties; he gave up legacies to others more needful; at considerable cost he wrote off debts of tenants on his farms; he was not slow in freeing deserving slaves and so many more acts are recorded here admittedly by his own hand. I loved the way he would beg and encourage friends and acquaintances to publish works he thought were polished and good and ready for publication so that their authors could accomplish something and achieve fame in their lifetime since life is short and unpredictable. It's a hard thing to say but I wish I'd had a father like Pliny.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pliny's works, 29 Sept. 2009
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This review is from: The Letters of Pliny the Younger (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
This book was purchased as part of my OU course books and whilst the work is quite heavy going you do get a sense of what life was like at the time of Pliny from his letters. The accompanying notes also help to guide you in the writings.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An accessable and enjoyable book, 19 Mar. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Letters of Pliny the Younger (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Many books have been penned about Ancient Rome. Some are well written and know what the're talking about - whilst others are long-winded and can bore you to tears in thirty seconds. Well, how about slicing through all that - and reading the words of a man who was actually there?
Pliny (the Younger) was a Roman nobleman born around 61AD. He served as a magistrate under the emperor Trajan, and was the nephew of Pliny (the Elder) the famous statesman and writer. It's refreshing to read the words of an actual Roman for a change instead of those of ancient or modern historians, and Pliny's letters cover many fascinating aspects of roman life. Also gratifying is that often we are also given the replies.
Among the topics covered are; family, villas, court cases, hobbies, and poetry (his own verses, it must be said, stink!). How refreshing to get inside a Roman nobleman's head, and share his thoughts (even though his letters were written perhaps with "one eye" on their eventual publication).
The most famous letter is addressed to his friend the roman historian Tacitus who has asked for an account of his uncle's death in the eruption of Vesuvius. This of course took place in 79AD and caused the destruction of both Pompeii and other towns in the Bay of Naples).
The translator Betty Radice has done a very good job rendering the letters into modern english and her twenty-two page introduction makes interesting reading. Brief appendices include a short glossary and three maps. If "real" roman history is your thing - you can't beat this collection!...
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pliny - WOW, 10 Jun. 2010
By 
Mr. Warren D. Hearder "Wazzarsa" (UK Northwest) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Letters of Pliny the Younger (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
reading the letters I came to the conclusion that the only difference is some 2000 odd years - nothing else has really changed!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Pliny, 21 Nov. 2010
This review is from: The Letters of Pliny the Younger (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Fascinating as it is 'straight from the horses mouth' as it were. His description on the eruption of Vesuvius is particularly interesting.
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The Letters of Pliny the Younger (Penguin Classics)
The Letters of Pliny the Younger (Penguin Classics) by The Younger Pliny (Paperback - 4 Dec. 2003)
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